December 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Blue Thunder OST   PROMOTIONAL ARCD01 [54:59]

"Every sound you made was overheard, every movement scrutinized... asleep or awake, working or eating, in the bath or in bed, no escape. Nothing is your own, except the few cubic centimeters inside you skull."

Nothing could describe the world of Blue Thunder better that George Orwell's prophetic voice. Blue Thunder is a story of a super-helicopter seemingly designed to prevent terrorism in Los Angeles, but as Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) soon discovered, intended for spying on the public. This is not just a kiddies adventure film like Knight Rider or Airwolf, where good prevails. The film is dark in its nature, warning us of the dangers of hyper-technology and bureaucracy.

The approach Arthur B. Rubinstein followed to score the film is somewhat predictable, quite usual for techno-thriller films: Electronic sounds, occasionally combined with an orchestra. Rubinstein mixes synths, to represent the high-tech theme of the film, and orchestra to suggest Frank Murphy's struggle to prevent this super-weapon being used (by stealing it!) With heroic and dramatic material, he creates two musically contrasting worlds that complement each other and emphasize the drama on screen.

This works well on screen. But on the CD?

Essentially the dominant and most recognisable theme, (Murphy's) is played by the brass in the Main Title and soon afterwards above a layer of synths and percussion, effectively providing us with a taste of the clash that is about to begin. The theme is kind of heroic and seemingly grand not in a pure adventurous sense. It is quite dark, ominous and dissonant in parts.

''Nam Flashback' clothes Murphy's mental scars from Vietnam War (all 80's movie heroes seem to be Vietnam veterans!!) with atmospheric electronic music and violin plucking. A brief statement of Murphy's theme also appears. Kate's theme is a romantic touch to the score, performed mainly by piano. "Follow my Leader" includes some quite suspenseful chase music, reminiscent of Schifrin's Mission:Impossible theme, rendered once again with synths.

'Murphy steals "Blue Thunder"' fires off quite promisingly but quickly reverts to electronic underscoring. 'River Chase/Hide and Seek', on the other hand, is a quite powerful track and one of the few times that the orchestra is allowed burst out of the thick layer of synths that constrains it, to perform this chase music, elevating the track significantly. In 'Ride with the Angels', the main theme is quite beautifully performed by piano and orchestra, giving at least a satisfactory conclusion to the score. The CD concludes with a rendition of the main theme by The Beepers. This track has an even more electronic feel than the rest of the score but is enjoyable.

Throughout the CD, the music more often than not, degrades to electronic underscore with occasional statements of the main theme and some chase music, maintaining and enchancing maybe the atmosphere of the film but adding very little to the score.

There is no doubt that the score is very effective in the movie and blends well, highlighting the drama, but its entertaining power is questionable when it is detached from the film. Most tracks sound much like each other and the score, at length, becomes tiring. Also, thematic variability is not a characteristic of the score and originality is not its strong point. The score would certainly benefit from a deeper thematic development, instead of overbearing synth underscore. Synths seem quite appropriate when it comes to techno-themed movies but overusing them may hinder any orchestral qualities the score may have and suppress its the listening value.

The CD is well produced, with crisp sound and a very informative booklet. It probably won't hold your attention for quite long.


Kostas Anagnostou

Promotional Albums offer lesser celebrated film composers the opportunity to bring their work (often of good quality but unsung [if you will forgive the pun]) to the attention of prospective producers who might be interested in contracting them for film scoring assignments. Another market opportunity is for short films, trailers, commercials, and other theatre and TV projects where producers with limited budgets might be interested in buying material "off the shelf." Lastly, film music buffs who have admired the scores but hitherto have never had an opportunity of acquiring the music now have an opportunity of buying scores they have admired. For instance anybody who liked Hummie Mann's music for Mel Brook's farce, Dracula, Dead and Loving It (with Leslie Nielsen) can now buy it from specialist sellers such as:

P.O. Box 500
Linden, VA 22642-0500
PH: (540) 635-2575
FAX: (540) 635-8554

Specializes in soundtracks, and carries some of those scores you just won't find anywhere else.

12072 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92840-2815
Voice: (714) 636-8700
Toll free: (800) 997-2434
Fax: (714) 636-8585


Kostas Anagnostou

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